counting-in-english

How to Count in English (Without Memorizing Every Number)

Easy as one, two, three!

Maybe you have heard that English expression before.

Simple! Quick! No problem!

But “one,” “two” and “three” are not usually the problem when it comes to counting in English.

How about one thousand, two hundred thirty-three and a half?

Okay… now things are getting tricky.

(That is 1,233.5, if you are stumped.)

Learning to count in English can be difficult for language learners, especially since large numbers can become very complex.

Not to mention the fact that English speakers from different regions say and pronounce some numbers totally differently!

Fret not, we have your back! If you are looking to count in English with ease, here are some patterns that will help you say any number—even big, complicated ones—flawlessly.
 


 
Learn a foreign language with videos

What Does It Mean to Count with Understanding?

To retain information long-term, you need to do more than just memorize. You need to truly understand the information.

So how does that work for a concept like counting in English?

First, like math, you can identify patterns that will make learning number sequences in English easier. Patterns add meaning and organization so you are not just memorizing blindly. In this article, we will show you several counting patterns to look out for.

Second, recognize that, like most English words, numbers are pronounced differently by different people. Do not panic when someone else says a number in a way that is different from how you memorized it.

People may read a string of numbers differently because of culture or custom, for example American English vs. British English. Try being open to these variations and perhaps even pick up a couple of new ways to count!

Tricks to Learn English Counting Faster

Involving your senses while practicing English will help you remember new words better. When you pay attention to your immediate surroundings, your brain is forced to be present in the moment, absorbing new knowledge. It also allows you to find the connection between real physical items and abstract numerical vocabulary.

  • Hear real English speakers count on FluentUThis is another way to learn rather than just memorize how to count in English. FluentU provides real-world English videos, like movie clips, music videos, news reports and more, that have been transformed into personalized language lessons.

To help you understand each video, there are flashcards, activities and interactive captions. Click any word for a definition and to see how it is used in other videos. It is an entertaining way to actively learn new English words while hearing how native speakers use the language.

For example, you will hear how Americans count large numbers in this news interview with a kid genius. You can explore the full video library for free with a FluentU trial.

  • Practice with flashcards: Flashcards are a great way to practice what you have learned because they require instantaneous responses. The more you practice, the shorter reaction time you will need when reading numbers.

This English numbers and counting flashcard app is a handy resource. Numbers that pop up can vary anywhere between a single digit to six digits. It also comes with audio pronunciations.

  • Practice all day and all night! Need I say more? The only way to digest what you have learned is to practice until fluent!

Easy as 1, 2, 3! Simple Tricks to Count in English Perfectly Every Time

Cardinal Numbers

In simple terms, cardinal numbers are figures that denote quantity. For example, “there are five eggs in the basket.” The number five is a cardinal number as it tells us the quantity of eggs in the basket.

Counting from 0 to 20

These cardinal numbers are the ones you will use most often in daily life. Plus, as you will see later in this article, most of the names for larger cardinal numbers are based on these numbers.

A note on “0,” the first number in our list below: this number can be pronounced in several different ways: “Zero,” “Oh,” “Nought” and “Nil.” However, “zero” is the more common usage.

“Oh” is sometimes used when reading a string of numbers out loud. For example, room 801 in a hotel could be read as “room eight-oh-one.”

“Nought” can only be found in British English, sometimes in terms of expressing a decimal. For example, the percentage 0.05% can be read as “nought point nought five percent.”

Meanwhile, “nil” is often used to express a game score between two competitors. For example, the soccer game score of 2-0 can be read as “two-nil.”

0 = Zero, Oh, Nought, Nil

1 = One

2 = Two

3 = Three

4 = Four

5 = Five

6 = Six

7 = Seven

8 = Eight

9 = Nine

10 = Ten

11 = Eleven

12 = Twelve

13 = Thirteen

14 = Fourteen

15 = Fifteen

16 = Sixteen

17 = Seventeen

18 = Eighteen

19 = Nineteen

20 = Twenty

Counting in Tens

Numbers that you can count in tens (20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90) will always end with the letters “ty” (pronounced “tee”).

For example, the number 20 is twenty. Similarly:

30 = Thirty

40 = Forty (notice that it is not spelled fourty)

50 = Fifty

60 = Sixty

70 = Seventy

80 = Eighty

90 = Ninety

Counting Any Double Digit Number

The double digit numbers are 10 through 99 (in other words, the numbers with two digits).

Once you know how to count to 20 and how to count in tens, you can easily count any of the remaining double digit numbers. All you have to do is combine the vocabulary.

Simply say the “tens” form of the first digit, then say the number in the second digit. For example, the number 76 can be read as seventy-six (not seven-six or seven-sixty).

Let us review more examples:

42 = Forty-two

81 = Eighty-one

29 = Twenty-nine

67 = Sixty-seven

56 = Fifty-six

33 = Thirty-three

Counting Hundreds and Thousands

Notice that a comma is placed to separate groups of three digits:

100 = One hundred

1,000 = One thousand

10,000 = Ten thousand

100,000 = One hundred thousand

1,000,000 = One million

Counting Complex Large Numbers

Do not be taken aback by big numbers. Everything is about combining vocabulary that we have already learned. Just try breaking down big numbers into bite-sized readable content.

134 = One hundred and thirty-four

831 = Eight hundred and thirty-one

1,211 = One thousand, two hundred and eleven

4,563 = Four thousand, five hundred and sixty-three

131,600 = One hundred and thirty-one thousand, six hundred

903,722 = Nine hundred and three thousand, seven hundred and twenty-two

Ordinal Numbers

Now that you have learned about cardinal numbers, it is time for some ordinal numbers! Ordinal numbers tell you the position of something in a sequence.

Gold, Silver, Bronze!

You only have to remember the first group of ordinal numbers, and the rest will be easy!

Maybe you have already heard these used in sports competitions, like the Olympics. First place wins gold, second place takes silver, third place takes bronze, etc.

1st = first (number one in a sequence)

Jimmy was the best artist in the art competition today. He won first prize!

2nd = second (number two in a sequence)

Tom came to school early today. He was the second student to arrive.

3rd = third (number three in a sequence)

You were the third person to comment on my Facebook post. My parents commented before you.

4th = fourth (number four in a sequence)

I am the fourth child in the family, so everyone treats me like a baby.

Counting Any Ordinal Number

Now you can turn any cardinal number into an ordinal number by following these rules:

  • Any number that ends in the digit 1 will get the “st” ending.
  • Any number that ends in the digit 2 will get the “nd” ending.
  • Any number that ends in the digit 3 will get the “rd” ending.
  • Any number that ends in the digit 4 will get the “th” ending.

For example:

101st = one hundred and first

42nd = forty-second

33rd = thirty-third

74th = seventy-fourth

The only exceptions involve the numbers “11,” “12,” and “13.” These ordinal numbers are denoted with “th.”

11th = eleventh

12th = twelfth

13th = thirteenth

Fractions

You probably recognize fractions from math class. Numerically, they are written as two numbers with a dividing line between them, e.g. “1/3.” But how do you actually say these numbers in English?

The numerator (top number of the fraction) should be recited like a cardinal number. The denominator (bottom number of the fraction) should be recited like an ordinal number.

Unless the numerator is one, make sure to put the denominator in plural form.

1/3 = one third

2/3 = two thirds

1/100 = one one hundredth

12/16 = twelve sixteenths

There are just two important exceptions:

1/2 = one half (not one second)

1/4, 2/4, 3/4 = one quarter, two quarters, three quarters (although saying “one fourth,” “two fourths” or “three fourths” would also be acceptable)

Regional Differences in English Counting

Just as different cultures have different slang words, there are several ways of reading a long string of numbers depending on your location. For example, this video from Numberphile talks about the struggles that an American living in the U.K. faces when it comes to reading numbers.

The list is not exhaustive, but here are some observable differences between the U.S. and the U.K. when it comes to counting in English.

Reading Identical Numbers in Consecutive Order

The British typically lump consecutive numbers together while the Americans tend to read them separately. For example, imagine you had to read the serial number, 91333-4155:

U.K.: Nine one triple three, four one double five

U.S.: “Nine one three three three, four one five five

Grouping Numbers in the Thousands

There is a certain type of number that Americans will say differently than British people. It is easiest to see it by example:

2,400:

U.K.: Two thousand, four hundred

U.S.: Twenty-four hundred

3,700:

U.K.: Three thousand, seven hundred

U.S.: Thirty-seven hundred

9,800:

U.K.: Nine thousand, eight hundred

U.S.: Ninety-eight hundred

However if you use the British version in the U.S., no one will think it is strange.

Including or Excluding the Term “And”

Imagine having to face a long string of numbers. How would you break it down? It is a British custom to insert the term “and” just before the last numerical expression, while this tradition is absent in American English.

542:

U.K.: Five hundred and forty-two

U.S.: Five hundred forty-two

 

Counting fluently in English will require time and effort. Try being open to the different variations of reading numbers. Happy practicing!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.

Experience English immersion online!

Comments are closed.